Next month will mark the 10 year anniversary of The Arctic Monkeys’ sophomore album Favourite Worst Nightmare. After their highest selling debut album in British history Whatever people say I am, that’s what I am not, FWN was yet another platform to further propel one greatest British band this generation has ever seen.
‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ was the catalyst for much of the hype around their first effort in 2006, becoming a blueprint for the album that followed. A raucous, unapologetic take on adolescence resonated with a troublemaking, night-clubbing plethora of British youths. The album received widespread critical acclaim. Tracks such as ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ and ‘Mardy Bum’ showed glimpses of a literary knack, and also a flare for storytelling that would launch them to dizzying heights.
As with any debut album that enjoys moderate success, it’s fair to say that the jury was out on their sophomore release. Sharp, honest and culturally reflective lyrics that were omnipresent throughout their first album remained, but the album achieved high praise for being a more rounded piece of work. Woven with more emotional depth and a narrative shift, the mirror they held up to society now had a wider berth than Sheffield and northern England. Tracks such as ‘505’, ‘Do Me a Favour’ and ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ were considered stand out’s as they were illustrative of a band who were exploring sonically.
Favourite Worst Nightmare cemented The Arctic Monkeys firmly atop the stratosphere of indie rock and garnered them a global fanbase that couldn’t help wonder where the band would go next. The album was poetic and polished, yet heavier and faster than their debut. Just one year later, it was clear that The Arctic Monkey were refusing to be pigeon-holed.
For LP number three, 2009’s Humbug, the band took a trip to the dessert to write and record, with Queen Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme brought in to produce. Newly incorporated keyboards, xylophones and slide guitars made for a grungier, moody record that signified for a drastic change in style. Turner’s witty, clever lyrics that worked so well behind guitar riffs and aggressive bass/drums were now the headline, complementing the darker sounds with more pensive, chromatic wordplay. It subtracted the casual listeners from the loyal fans in one of music’s bravest equations.
Humbug is the most divisive Arctic Monkeys album to date. Whilst everything on the album may not have worked, it is now regarded as one of their most important pieces of work. Humbug showed the world that The Arctic Monkeys were far from their pinnacle, and were a band willing to set new heights for themselves, even if they had smashed through the ceiling with each of their previous albums. It is this quality and willingness to change that makes The Arctic Monkeys so unique, and so important.
In a generation where ‘pop’ music has become more about image, less about lyrics, and all about gimmicks, The Arctic Monkeys come along every couple of years to inspire hope. Being experimental for a band is paramount, yet it seems that too many bands nowadays are all to content with staying in their lane.
The evolution of the Arctic Monkeys continued with their fourth Album, Suck it and See. Packed full of love songs and experimental lyrics, it paved the way for their ‘best’ album to date; AM. Released in 2014, AM was seen as their first album to really ‘break America’. It’s obvious that there was a conscious influence from other genres, such as the hip-hop beat on ‘Do I wanna Know’, and a sultrier sound on songs such as ‘Arabella’ and ‘Knee Socks’.
It was an album that exuded confidence from a band at the peak of their powers. Turner admits that the band were delighted with how it came out, chirping “we made a genuine progression from where we started out. That’s sort of all we’re trying to do really is just continue that progression, that’s what it’s all about.”
From humble beginnings in Sheffield northern England, The Arctic Monkeys are a great example of forward-thinking and boundless ambition. What truly separates them is their ability to reinvent themselves. Every few years, The Arctic Monkeys inject the mainstream rock scene with a dose of originality that leaves sordid imitators in their wake. The are not only setting new standards for themselves, but for music in general.
Not since The Beatles have a British band managed to continually evolve and grow in such a successful manner. Much like The Beatles, every Arctic Monkeys fan has a different opinion on which album is their best; they don’t have a piece of work that is notably inferior. Now that they have conquered America, they can truly feel like they have accomplished a musical style that they are happy with, although you can be sure that such contentment won’t last too long.